Max Hastings: Operation Pedestal

Has anyone else read Max Hasting's new book and been wholly surprised by his conclusions that protecting Malta was an unnecessary distraction and waste of resources? Could we perhaps consider a scenario where Britain is forced to withdrawn all its forces (including the submarines) from the island and allowing Italy to occupy?

My understanding, as taught in some of the finer military academies is that the serious depletion of the seaborne logistics chain to the Afrika Corps was as significant in its defeat as any other cause, including El Alamein. The Malta based submarines severely depleted Rommels, POL, ammunition and spares as well as reinforcements.

Thoughts?
 
Has anyone else read Max Hasting's new book and been wholly surprised by his conclusions that protecting Malta was an unnecessary distraction and waste of resources? Could we perhaps consider a scenario where Britain is forced to withdrawn all its forces (including the submarines) from the island and allowing Italy to occupy?

My understanding, as taught in some of the finer military academies is that the serious depletion of the seaborne logistics chain to the Afrika Corps was as significant in its defeat as any other cause, including El Alamein. The Malta based submarines severely depleted Rommels, POL, ammunition and spares as well as reinforcements.

Thoughts?
I think Max is full of shit

I have become over the years less appreciative of his work as I myself learn more and IMO he has shown in several of his works how should I put it, a particular fondness for the German Military and lack of serious understanding of strategy.

Malta might have cost the British a lot of resources but it did draw a lot of response from the Axis and cost them a great deal of effort, treasure, resources and lives in trying to deal with it at a time when Britain was struggling to impact them and support Russia.

On its own it certainly did not win the North African campaign but it was certainly an important part of it.
 
Malta might have cost the British a lot of resources but it did draw a lot of response from the Axis and cost them a great deal of effort, treasure, resources and lives in trying to deal with it at a time when Britain was struggling to impact them and support Russia.

On its own it certainly did not win the North African campaign but it was certainly an important part of it.
This.

Also I would think that Malta in the Axis' hands would make life in the mediterrrean more difficult for the Allies. Landing on Sicily would be harder if the axis has shipping and an airbase at Malta
 

trinity

Banned
Don't hold, back! Say what you really think about Mr Hastings!
Considering how Max Hastings is actually one of the fiercest critics of German strategic decision-making throughout WWII, I consider him to be a fairly reliable source on this subject matter, although agreeing to disagree with him in still fine.
 
The Malta based submarines severely depleted Rommels, POL, ammunition and spares as well as reinforcements.

Thoughts?
I think it was mostly Rommels' consistenly outrunning his supplies that depleted his POL, ammo and spares.

The harbors the Axis had in NA pretty much worked to capacity all the time. It's not that they didn't try as hard as they could to supply Rommel. There was just limited capacity, and that capacity was not enough for Rommels' advances. Which he chose to ignore.
 
Considering how Max Hastings is actually one of the fiercest critics of German strategic decision-making throughout WWII, I consider him to be a fairly reliable source on this subject matter, although agreeing to disagree with him in still fine.
He is a good journalist but a second rate historian. He tends to look at things too narrowly and criticize decisions based on hindsight, not the information the commanders actually had available.

In this case , as per usual , he ignores the indirect strategic implications, just giving up Malta has grave repercussions in terms of morale and perception. If Malta is not fought hard for , will anything?
 

trinity

Banned
He is a good journalist but a second rate historian. He tends to look at things too narrowly and criticize decisions based on hindsight, not the information the commanders actually had available.

In this case , as per usual , he ignores the indirect strategic implications, just giving up Malta has grave repercussions in terms of morale and perception. If Malta is not fought hard for , will anything?
He doesn't do any of this.

Abandoning Malta and instead reinforcing North Africa to evict the German-Italians from Libya was in fact a major idea that was being floated around by the High Command at the moment: his suggestions don't come from nowhere at all.
 
He doesn't do any of this.

Abandoning Malta and instead reinforcing North Africa to evict the German-Italians from Libya was in fact a major idea that was being floated around by the High Command at the moment: his suggestions don't come from nowhere at all.
And why was idea binned? Might be for looking at things too narrowly and ignoring indirect strategic implications :)
 
My understanding was that without Malta the idea of running convoys to Alexandria would not have been thought viable.
 

trinity

Banned
And why was idea binned? Might be for looking at things too narrowly and ignoring indirect strategic implications :)
Expelling the Axis from Libya in 1940/1941 was well within the capabilities of the BEF at the time, and was an objective of far wider strategic importance compared to Malta.
 
Loosing Malta would mean loosing North Africa, which would mean loosing Suez, whic would mean a severe threat to the middle east oil fields and an easy way, for the Axis, to support Iraqi nationalists. It would allow the axis to divert all the aircraft and subs wasted there to the Atlantic and Russia, not to mention ground troops to reinforce Russia and the Atlantic wall. And I very much wonder how this would afect Turkey's views on the war.

Anyone who says "abandon Malta" has no idea wtf he's talking about.
 
Considering how Max Hastings is actually one of the fiercest critics of German strategic decision-making throughout WWII, I consider him to be a fairly reliable source on this subject matter, although agreeing to disagree with him in still fine.
I may have been a little harsh for sure.....
 
I recall reading (Greene and Massignani?) that the RM actually got a substantial portions of cargoes escorted to North Africa through. I don't recall the percentage, but I do remember it was surprisingly high.

The problem, as I understand it, for supplying North Africa, was Rommel. With Ultra reading German communiques, Rommel would send these very detailed and specific supply requests, down to a certain number of rounds of a given ammunition to so many litres of Petrol. With most of the Italian Merchant Marine trapped outside the Med by Mussolini's declaration of war, all British intelligence had to do was look around at reconnaissance to see what remaining merchant ships were available in what ports that could carry such cargo, and they could make a very good educated guess about convoy complements and likely departure times. Situations like Cape Spada, while a clear British victory, were not uncommon. As I recall, Sydney sank Colleoni, but the convoy got away. Wrecking Tobruk helped as well, after all he fuel and effort to get ships through, a number were sunk waiting for cargoes to be unloaded.

My opinion, but losing or abandoning Malta doesn't cost the British the North Africa campaign. Supplies were already going around Africa for Egypt. What retaining Malta did was make reinforcing the Mediterranean Fleet easier (Operation Hats, for example) while at the same time providing a phalanx of spears for Axis airpower to impale themselves upon. Much like the BoB, any surviving RAF pilot shot down over or near Malta will likely be flying again soon, while any surviving Italian or German pilot is prisoner of war.

My thoughts,
 
I've recently wondered about this. Given that Malta was fully suppressed a lot of the relevant time and logistic tail for Western Desert Force/8th Army almost fully went around Africa, how much of a loss would losing Malta be?

Except some very sucessfull but short Force K operations axis convoys were mostly attacked by subs and airplanes. I believe subs had the range to operate from Egypt (if less effectively), so what amount of shipping was sunk from planes operating from Malta? IIRC Beaufighters and other planes had a pretty successful record, but they were also unable to operate all the time.

Wiki has a list of axis shipping losses in central Med, I don't remember if it differentiates beetween ship/sub/air losses.

EDIT
What was Malta's importance for ULTRA/ELINT operations?
 
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I've recently wondered about this. Given that Malta was fully suppressed a lot of the relevant time and logistic tail for Western Desert Force/8th Army almost fully went around Africa, how much of a loss would losing Malta be?

EDIT
What was Malta's importance for ULTRA/ELINT operations?
Hundreds of german & italian aircraft diverted elsewhere, free to support either North Africa or Russia. All german submarines and (maybe?) larger italian subs diverted to the Atlantic, with the smaller models used to bottle up Egypt. Italian/german supply runs made much shorter, saffer and simpler, now that Malta belongs to the Axis: just plop 3-4 fighter squadrons there to provide cover with 1-2 patrol squadrons for ASW; run the convoys west of Malta, then straight south. Heck, with the RN blockaded in Egypt and out of the Med, you can even have the Marina Regia do a battleship run on Gibraltar to bomb it out of existence!
 
I think this idea stems from the fact that the biggest logistical problem for the Axis was a lack of strategic transport within Libya; small ports and no railway linking Tripoli and Benghazi and points further forward meant a huge burden on what should have been tactical transport simply doing long haul administrative transport. By extension even if Malta fell to the Axis they'd still have to mostly use Tripoli and Benghazi and have a huge internal logistic overhead regardless of how much extra stuff managed to get to these ports.

However that doesn't make Malta useless and a drain on resources. I think everyone can agree that losing Crete was a major strategic loss in the Med theatre, and holding it would have had significant benefits throughout that campaign. Malta is the same and even moreso; its position put the British on the strategic offensive, always ready to strike deep into the heart of the Axis forces when it gathers the strength and requiring resources to guard even when pressed and on the defensive. It's a bit like the German position in France in WW1, simply holding the ground dominates strategic thinking and forces the enemy into acting a certain way and not others.
 
Expelling the Axis from Libya in 1940/1941 was well within the capabilities of the BEF at the time, and was an objective of far wider strategic importance compared to Malta.

Even avoiding the Greek mainland campaign and holding Crete the British Commonwealth lacked the strength to really destroy the Axis forces until Operation Crusader in late 1941. The entire 2nd Armoured Division likely only had the strength to hold Rommel's Op Sonnenblume at Tobruk, the forces gathered for Battleaxe when added to the semi-successful 2nd AD likely only had the strength to take Benghazi. It's only when Op Crusader, if launched from west of Tobruk and using the lessons learned from earlier campaigns, that the British have the strength to push much past their 1940 high point and perhaps make Tripoli.
 

Garrison

Donor
Expelling the Axis from Libya in 1940/1941 was well within the capabilities of the BEF at the time, and was an objective of far wider strategic importance compared to Malta.
And it was transferring troops to Greece because they thought they had plenty of time before the Afrika Korps could get organized that cost them the opportunity, not defending Malta.
 
Hundreds of german & italian aircraft diverted elsewhere, free to support either North Africa or Russia.
I think that's probably true, just windering about it.

However, British also poured lot of resources into Malta that could be used elsewere. All the shipping lost and used, all the planes sent there and lost (mostly with pilots) on the way without even fighting, all the naval forces dedicated to it with major losses (2 CV's among others, even if one obsolete) and damages... Subs used for suply runs instead for hunting Italian shipping.

Brits could also use that elsewhere.

And it's doubtfull if all those planes could be supplied if sent to Lybia.

I think Malta was definitely worth it just for morale purposes, to "fight back".

I'm just wondering if cold material calculation also makes it similarily important or less than that.
 
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